The words that caress are soft, armor-piercing shards. He uses them to forage for his hungry soul.
He is the neighborhood tailor. His ramshackle shop gets an inordinate amount of business. When we are alone he tells me at length about the women trying on clothes behind the make-shift curtain he has hung across the back corner of the room. “Ah, you don’t know what it’s like,” he told me. “It’s the best job in the world.”
I would go in to hem a pant or replace a button, but he would regale me with stories of women.
“When I was younger,” he said, “I had a girlfriend who was the maid of a woman who lived in a fancy apartment in Barrio Norte. My girlfriend had given me a key and so on nights when I went to see her I would let myself in after the owner went to sleep. Then, I would leave before dawn.”
“One morning, I kissed my girlfriend goodbye while she slept and made to leave. As I was going through the dining room, the owner was standing there in her nightgown. ‘I know what you’ve been up to,’ she said. ‘I hear you.’”
“I said something like, ‘I’m sorry, Señora,’ but she wouldn’t let me go. She kept talking to me, asking me questions. I realized that we had never fooled her and, most importantly, she wasn’t mad at all. To make a long story short, she wanted me to come back on the night her maid had off. Can you believe it!? That was what she wanted from me.”
He chuckled to himself as he remembered.
“So,” I said, anxious for details. “What did you do?”
He had lost interest in the story and bent again over his work table to mark fabric. “Oh, I went back alright and I did what she wanted me to do. But when I left… I took a silver candlestick. As a souvenir.”
He gestured to a single, dusty candlestick high up on a cluttered shelf.
He was an old man now, but his eyes shone brightly when he spoke of women. The fire was alive and he had a strength and fierceness about him that belied his age, as if he had dined on some mysterious potion that kept the soul wild and strong and dangerous, even as his body failed.
And his eyes were still hungry.